King to Help Cavaliers Rout Magic; Pacers Hang with Blazers

Magic play Cavaliers, James

Troy Haliburton

Thursday, January 18, 2018 4:10 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 4:10 PM UTC

Making NBA picks can be a give-and-take proposition. It could pay off Thursday to give the points with the Cavs against the Magic, and take the points with the Pacers vs. the Blazers.

Thursday NBA: Magic vs. Cavaliers

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Free NBA Pick: Cavaliers -10.5Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

LeBron James is quietly having one of his best seasons with a player efficiency rating of 29.8, aiming for his first plus-30 PER since the 2012-13 season. The reason James is having so much individual success is because his supporting cast is probably weaker than it has been in years past. He has to play a lot more point guard than normal because of the absence of Derrick Rose, and The King has to rebound more because of Tristan Thompson, who was out with a wrist injury before returning and playing mediocre.

James can look across tonight's matchup and see a younger version of himself in the Magic’s Aaron Gordon. The former lottery pick is using his 6-foot-9 frame to attack the basket at will, and his height is why he can see over smaller defenders and thread the needle with accurate passes. Also, Gordon is shooting the ball better than he has as a pro.

Gordon will look to do his best King James impersonation, but the Cavs have the real deal, making them big home favorites on the NBA odds board. In my NBA picks, I think Cleveland will try to re-establish itself as an elite team with a statement win against the lowly Magic.

Thursday NBA: Pacers vs. Trail Blazers

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Free NBA Pick: Pacers +4Best Line Offered: Pinnacle

The Pacers are a surprisingly competitive team this season, and a lot of the credit has to go to the improved play of Victor Oladipo. The former Indiana Hoosier is averaging 22 points per game, up from the 15 ppg he averaged last season. Oladipo came to the Pacers in a trade for Paul George, in which the consensus was that the Pacers did not get proper value back. Also in that deal was Domantas Sabonis, who is averaging 12 ppg after averaging only 5 ppg last season.

A main reason Oladipo's career has taken off is that he transformed his body in the offseason by losing a lot of weight. His new frame allows him to be quicker attacking the basket and is giving him more endurance to take on a heavier workload.

Oladipo is a key factor in my NBA picks tonight. He will be a matchup nightmare for the Trail Blazers and their undersized backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The Pacers, +4 road underdogs on the NBA odds board, are 24-20 ATS this season, and this does not look like a spot where they will let that trend down.

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